Friday, December 13, 2013

Don't we already do Inclusion

If you have not heard Dr. Paula Kluth speak about autism and inclusion, you should make an effort to do so. She is a knowledgeable and dynamic speaker whose passion for including individuals with disabilities into everyday life is palpable. When I was at a workshop she presented in October, I picked up the book "Don't We Already Do Inclusion?" 100 Ideas for Improving Inclusive Schools. It finally reached the top of my reading pile. Since I had previously enjoyed her book, You're Going to Love This Kid, I was excited to see what insights she brought to this text.

This book recognizes that in many places, inclusion is the norm. No situation, however, is perfect for every person. What worked in the past, may not function in the future. One of my concerns with the book is the idea that inclusive classrooms settings are right for every child. I strongly believe that there is no one solution for every child. As adapted as a classroom can be for a child, there may be reasons for that child to be educated in a separate setting. Placements need to be determined on an individual basis.

This book is more of a series of discussion prompts than a how to guide. The author describes an idea and then asks the reader to consider how each idea could be applied to his situation. The beauty of the book is that it recognizes how unique each individual and setting is. The challenge of the book is that it is often short on specifics. People who need detailed maps will not find it as useful as other books.

The book is a great jumping point for discussions. Professional Learning Committees may benefit from discussions centering around the various issues. There is no right order to attack the book. Someone could skim it and identify an area of concern to examine. Randomly opening pages and talking about the text there could be an interesting approach as well.

Christmas count down

As I peruse catalogs and shop this season I think about the various advent calendars I see about. First, they are not advent calendars since they only count down the days of December until Christmas. If we ignore the misnomer, we can think about what to do. Many of these calendars have either small toys or candy in them. When he was little, my son with ASD ate all the candy in our calendar. He then told me it either was Christmas or I needed to refill the calendar. I knew I wanted to have some visual representation for him, but his poor impulse control prevented something like this. Instead I found a reference to using stories. I wrote the title of 24 books on little scraps of paper and each child could take turns taking them down. This was not so irresistible that it could not be left alone and yet it was fun, because every day we read a book together. We read books about winter like Jan Brett's The Mitten, books about secular Christmas like Tedd Arnold's Huggly's Christmas and Robert May's Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, books about religious Christmas like Kim Kufus's O Little Town of Bethlehem, and books about Hanukkah like Eric Kimmel's Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins. As they grew we read chapters of longer stories like Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. It was a great way to connect at the end of a busy day. Yes, there were days that were skipped, that meant we read two stories the next day or they could pick which of the selections to read together. Although I have collected a large holiday book pile, libraries are full of such stories as well; there is no need to fill a shelf with the books yourself.

When parents want to know how to help their children read, the best advise I have is to read to and with them. Devices like this are fun ways to engage kids in reading and put the focus of what can be a stressful season on family togetherness. During these cold winter nights, sit down with your family, cuddle under a blanket or in front of a fire and read a book together. See what it can do to help build family and reading.